Modern Life Is War: Old Fears, New Frontiers
Jeffrey Eaton on the band's past, present and future...
In 2008, when Modern Life Is War called it a day, they had been working non-stop for six years. If the Iowa quintet weren’t on the road, they were writing and recording – and this was a band that poured themselves into every note, every time. 2003’s ‘My Love. My Way’ was a solid hardcore record, but it was 2005’s exceptionally nuanced and thoughtful ‘Witness’ that elevated Modern Life Is War above many of their peers. The band continued to demonstrate an incredible ability to weave melody and emotional fragility into an intensely heavy overall sound on 2007’s ‘Midnight In America’, despite losing two original band members before the recording. When the split came a year later, caused by the band’s punishing schedule, it happened at the very moment that Modern Life Is War seemed poised to reach a much larger audience. When they reformed in 2013 and released fourth album, ‘Fever Hunting’ – a record that expertly built on the band’s previous work, but expanded lyrically, into more philosophical areas – hardcore fans around the world were thrilled to have them back.
We caught up with vocalist Jeffrey Eaton, as Modern Life Is War prepares for their first UK shows in eight years...
**HOW ARE YOU FEELING ABOUT COMING BACK AFTER A LENGTHY BREAK?
**Jeffrey: “Definitely nervous and excited. I know it will go by very fast. I really just want to try to be grateful the entire time and soak up as much of the experience as I can. I want to do my best to give our supporters a great show and feel that connection. It’s been a few months since we’ve played shows so I’m anxious to get wild on stage.”
WHAT'S THE BAND DYNAMIC LIKE NOW?
“It is always in flux and I think that’s true with every band – especially one that’s been together for as long as we have. Things were obviously very exciting and fast paced when we came back and released a new record. Now that we’ve played quite a number of shows and Fever Hunting is a few years old, we’re starting to look at the next steps and back into the songwriting process. I’m anxious to get some time alone with just the band in a room to work out some new song ideas. It’s hard living in different areas. It adds a separation that you have to find ways to work around.”
HOW FAR APART DO YOU ALL LIVE?
“John [Paul Eich, guitar], Tyler [Oleson, drums] and myself are all based in Iowa. Chris [Honeck, bass] is in Arizona and Matt [Hoffman, guitar] is in California.”
**WHO MADE THE FIRST MOVE WITH REGARDS TO THE REUNION?
**“We all stayed in touch to varying degrees. The idea of getting the band back together came up on a phone call between Chris and myself.”
WHERE DID YOU THINK YOUR LIFE WAS HEADED DURING THE BAND'S INACTIVITY?
“At that time I really didn’t know where my life was headed. I lived in Los Angeles for a couple years right after things ended and then came back to Iowa. I hesitate to call them lost years… but they were definitely transitional years and I feel more on track currently. I tend to be hard on myself and obsess over progress and accomplishment, which I don’t necessarily think is a good way to approach life. It was a humbling time period for me and I met a lot of friends during those years that are still very important to me.”
**IN 2011, YOU WROTE A BLOG WHICH SAID, 'NO BAND YET. I'M NOT DONE SCREAMING YET'. DID MODERN LIFE IS WAR SEEM LIKE AN IMPOSSIBILITY AT THE TIME?
**“It did feel impossible at the time. I guess a lot of things in life are cyclical and sometimes important friendships and creative partnerships stray and then eventually come back around.”
**WHY WAS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE A NEW ALBUM WHEN YOU REUNITED? **
“Because I want to play in a band that is relevant now and not stuck in a different era. Also because I really appreciate the people who support us and I wanted them to know that we were back for good reasons. Our records are our primary form of communication with those people.”
ON 'FEVER HUNTING' IT FEELS LIKE YOU’RE ACKNOWLEDGING THAT YOU’VE GROWN SINCE 2008, BUT ALSO LOOKING AROUND YOU AND SAYING THE WORLD’S NOT SO DIFFERENT NOW – A LOT OF THINGS ARE STILL TERRIBLE.
“I don’t look at it in such a negative way. I think there’s a beauty in the struggle to live a meaningful life. I have hope for myself, as well as humanity as a whole. I think the things that you struggle with will often keep coming up to the surface over and over again. It’s like people who struggle with addiction – even if they’ve been clean for decades, they face that addiction every day. Fever Hunting is the continued search for significance, dignity, purpose. It’s about protecting and defending your rebellion after the novelty has worn off. Someday your teens and twenties will be over. Money will be more real. Energy will not be boundless. There are certain advantages and disadvantages that come with age and perspective and I think a lot of the lyrics are about that new perspective. Overall, I am more optimistic than I was when I was younger and feel that I have more control over my life and my place in the world.”
LYRICALLY, THERE ALSO SEEMS TO BE A RECURRING THEME ABOUT THE FRAGILITY OF LIFE. IS THIS SOMETHING THAT COMES UP A LOT BECAUSE DEATH IS SUCH A MOTIVATOR TO LIVE EVERY DAY LIKE IT’S YOUR LAST?
“I think that keeping in mind you are going to die is important, to keep you sharp and to keep your priorities in focus. Living every day like it’s your last is just an unrealistic cliche for most people. I’m trying to practice being present, in the moment, and I guess the album was a way to account for the past and look forward towards that goal of being more present. Exorcising those old demons a bit so I can get closer to that calm, focused mind and live more skillfully. Life is definitely fragile and impermanent and we don’t know what comes next. Writing about it and singing about it helps me come to terms with the realities and helps me to be more comfortable with the questions that can’t be answered.”
**HAS THERE BEEN ONE DEFINING MOMENT SINCE THE BAND GOT BACK TOGETHER, WHERE YOU’VE STOPPED AND THOUGHT 'THIS IS WHY WE NEEDED TO DO THIS'?
**“This feeling has hit me about every time we have played live since we’ve been back. Seeing our people singing every word with me… I feel lucky to be a part of the whole thing. Also once in a while, I put on Fever Hunting and am extremely proud of the way that record came out. All in all, it is still really crazy to me that people care about this band as deeply as they do. It is a strange connection that we all have.”
**WHAT ARE YOU HOPING FOR, WHEN IT COMES TO THE FUTURE OF MODERN LIFE IS WAR?
**“I want it to last as long as possible, but I have high expectations. I want it to feel vital, constantly creative, uncompromising and pushing our limits. I want solidarity within the band and to be on a mission together; to keep the focus on the artistic expression and rebellious energy of it, rather than the business and planning side of being in a band. I want to be in a band that people can believe in and that means what we are doing today – not just relying on our reputation or things we have done in the past.”
Modern Life Is War play the following venues:
April 09: London Old
April 10: Manchester Sound Control
April 11: London Underworld